I have a love/hate relationship with SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization — techniques that help you get ranked higher on search engine result pages (SERP) for Google or Bing and the likes. In my opinion bloggers, especially beginner bloggers shouldn’t worry about SEO too much. But at the same time, I feel obligated to share with you some SEO practices because not acknowledging the power of SEO would be just plain silly.
What Is SEO, Why It Matters, and Why It Doesn’t!
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. Meaning, you apply some techniques to your blog or website, overall and also for individual pages and posts, with the intention to get search engines like Google and Bing and others to show your website (or a specific page or a post) on their very first SERP a.k.a. Search Engine Result Page, towards the top, possibly at the number-one spot if you’re overly ambitious.
Seeing that most people use search engines like Google on a daily basis, and practically for EVERYTHING, it only makes sense for bloggers to SEO their blogs and individual posts. After all, you want people to be able to find your awesome content! And nothing, no social media platform, no word of mouth, no amount of guest posts, NOTHING quite helps drive traffic to a blog as much as search engines do.
And if that’s the case, you may be wondering why it is that I advise newbie bloggers to stay away from focusing too much on SEO.
The Disadvantage of Focusing Too Much on the Wrong Kind of SEO
SEO is an evolving technology. And with emerging technologies like AI and voice searches, SEO practices that could help you rank on SERP just a couple of years ago would now be useless.
What you learn today, may not apply tomorrow. And that is precisely why I discourage people from worrying too much about it. If you’re a professional marketer, learning SEO and constantly being on the know may help. But if you’re just a part-time, side-blogger, which is the case for most bloggers, then getting a headache trying to master SEO is only going to leave you with that — a headache.
And there’s another thing that makes worrying about SEO for new bloggers basically a waste of time and energy.
You see, Google tends to rank content with high domain score. And the conditions for that (which I’ll talk about shortly) are so ridiculously demanding that it is almost impossible for new bloggers with blogs less than 2/3 years old to start ranking. Unless your blog is a niche within a niche, but then again, if you niche down that much, chances are you won’t have that many readers in the first place.
If you’re ambitious, and you have the time to write stellar content and publish daily AND implement the latest SEO techniques, then maybe, you’ll start ranking within the first year. But that’s still just a “maybe” and likely depends on a whole bunch of other factors.
In short, let’s just say that the question that comes to mind often when tackling SEO is this: did the chicken come first or the egg?
In other words, it’s a nightmare!
To top it off, often new bloggers hear about things like “keywords”, and they focus so much on trying to stuff keywords in blog posts that they end up compromising quality.
Oh, and one other thing here. You may have heard about a plugin called Yoast SEO and how it helps with SEO. Let me clarify it once and for all, Yoast, by itself, does NOTHING for your SEO. Yoast has some advantages, like, they automatically generate a sitemap for you, you can use this plugin to add customized titles and meta descriptions, you can also use it to add (certain) platform-specific metadata, and that’s about it! So, please do not think that just by installing Yoast you’re somehow boosting your SEO.
The Key to Proper SEO Is Quality Of Your Posts
A great blog post has certain qualities. For example, your titles should be such that they help your potential readers know right away whether or not the post is right for them. Good formatting techniques implemented to make it easy for your readers to go through the entire post will also require you to do certain things that will automatically improve the SEO of a post. For example, dividing up content in sections under headers and sub-headers will not only make your post more readable but the use of properly crafted headers and sub-headers will improve your SEO as well.
It is advisable that new bloggers focus on writing effective blog post titles and also learn to format their posts so that they’re easily readable.
Should You Focus on SEO or Not?
Without totally contradicting myself here, it all comes down to priorities. When it comes to blogging, you must remember that there’s no end to all that one can do with their blog. Good advice is a dime a dozen. So, at the end of the day, you have to decide where you’ll focus your time and energy.
SEO is up there, no doubt about it. But again, if you focus on providing value and quality, that automatically takes care of a big portion of SEO.
Now, let’s say that you have the value and quality parts down pat, and you have started to drive some traffic to your blog already, with social media and Pinterest, then maybe it’s time to focus on other methods of driving traffic to your blog- voila! SEO.
Your Blog Should Be Set Up Properly
Better user experience is key to ranking with Google. No matter how much you stuff your posts with keywords, if you have a slow website that takes forever to load, and if it’s not user-friendly, Google won’t rank your page. So, before anything else, pay attention to how you set up your blog.
Setting up your blog starts with choosing the right platform and base. As you already know, I personally prefer WordPress. And for self-hosted WordPress blogs, your hosting company plays a significant role. A good hosting company (with a good plan) will be fast and secure.
Here are some of the important factors when it comes to setting up your blog:
Choose the right hosting and plan. I suggest SiteGround [affiliate] and at least their GrowBig or higher plans.
While you’re setting up WordPress, make sure to also change your permalink structure. Get rid of any numbers in your URL structure, and set it to post-name on WordPress. So, your URL structure should look like this: https://www.yourblogurl.com/post-title/
Refer to the blog post above to see how to change the permalink structure on WordPress.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. A good template will take care of that, so, again, make sure to choose a well-coded template. Use this tool by Google to see if your blog is mobile-friendly.
- Make sure you have SSL. SSL is what makes your site https as opposed to http. Many hosting companies make you pay for SSL, but if you sign up with SiteGround [affiliate], they offer SSL for free! Yet another reason I love SiteGround.
- Further optimize your blog with a performance-enhancing plugin. I use WP Rocket to increase performance and Optimole to optimize images. These two plugins together with good hosting (GoGeek plan with SiteGround) has cut down my website loading time by half!
- Submit your sitemap (The plugin “Yoast” automatically creates a sitemap for you) to Google’s Search Console.
- Make sure you have all the necessary meta descriptions and meta tags on all of your posts and pages, as well as the main header file of your website. Use the plugin “Yoast SEO” to add these values. Simply install the plugin, and then use it’s configuration wizard to configure the main meta tags that would be added to the header of your blog. As for page and post specific meta tags, you’ll be able to edit those in the specific post and page editors in the WordPress dashboard.
Your Blog Post Title is Important
Write a title that explains what your post is about. Certain kinds of titles do better with readers. For example, how-to posts and list posts tend to do better than other, generic titles. But that is not to say that you can only ever have how-to and list type titles (or posts for that matter).
The goal is to write something that people will be inclined to click on. Something descriptive, but not super long, because Google tends to trim long titles. Try to fit no more than 60 characters in your title.
Use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to see how your chosen title fares. Do keep in mind that at the end of the day, these are generally good practices and not iron-clad rules that you can never break or bend.
Again, ask yourself what would resonate with your readers. As a blogger, you should be writing for your readers, and not for Google.
But the nice thing is, Google also cares about your readers. So, if you write for your readers, Google will eventually pick up on it too.
Formatting is not only important for SEO, but for your readers too. Nobody likes to read long paragraphs after long paragraphs on the screen. You need to give your readers periodic breaks.
- Break up posts into sections and use headers and sub-headers to properly describe what the section is about. See how Google pulled my headers for the blog launch checklist? That shows that Google likes it when you break things up.
- Write shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. Typically, you’d want to mix up paragraph lengths, so as not to visually bore your readers. But even the longer paragraphs shouldn’t be too long.
- Use meaningful images, videos, and gifs to add breaks.
Add a Meta Description to Your Blog
There’s no knowing what Google will show. Sometimes it may show the meta description you’ve written, sometimes it may show the excerpt, or, other times, it may show something completely different. I’m assuming it shows what it thinks is most relevant depending on the search terms used.
As for ranking, back in the good old days, Google cared about meta descriptions in the way pages were ranked. But more and more, Google is getting away from traditional SEO tactics that people tend to abuse in order to rank higher on SERP.
You will still see meta descriptions being pulled by Facebook and Pinterest. So, I say, go ahead and add this description. for the sake of your potential readers.
Adding a meta description is simple in WordPress. When you install the popular SEO plugin “Yoast”, you’ll see a section in all WordPress pages and posts (in the dashboard) where you will be able to tweak the post/page title, slug (the URL extension), and the meta description. Click on “Edit Snippet” to edit these.
As I pointed out earlier, you should use an image optimizer plugin to compress and optimize images on your site. But aside from that, also make sure to add a descriptive alt-tag for all of your images. If possible, consider changing the image file name to something relevant, if it isn’t already.
Use Internal Linking
A great way to improve user experience as well as keep your readers on your blog longer is by use of internal linking. Whenever you think your readers will benefit from another post on your site that is relevant to the current post, link it!
Post Quality Posts Consistently
Google doesn’t like it when you do not post consistently. Now, consistency is a relative term. For some people, consistency means one every fortnight, for others, it’s once a week, and yet, for some others, it may be every day!
Pick a schedule and try to stick to it.
SEO genius Neil Patel says that for new bloggers to start driving significant traffic, they should publish quality blog posts at least twice a week and preferably three times a week. Personally, I would say that you need to figure out how much you can handle given your unique circumstances. But I do suggest that you aim for at least once a week, and no less, especially when you’re brand new at this.
Revamp and Recycle Your Content Often
A good practice is to revamp and/or recycle your content periodically. Once you’ve had your blog for a few months, you’ll notice that sometimes a post gets a lot of traffic, and then, after a few weeks, traffic shifts.
You should make a habit of periodically (every 2-4 months) going back to some of your most popular posts, and see if you can edit them to make them better. Maybe re-write some paragraphs to better explain a point, or add a content upgrade (this also helps with increasing your email list signup).
The best way to get something is by asking. The same goes for getting backlinks (when other sites link to your blog).
The Proper Usage of Keywords
Google (and other search engines) are working continuously to bring the best possible solution to people’s queries. They are focused on the user experience. So, unless you’re purchasing keywords and paying for Ads (which most bloggers never do), or doing shady, underhanded things (which will likely give you the spotlight for a very short period of time before Google bans your ass for good and makes sure you never ever rank again), you’ll be better off paying attention to writing stellar content and not worrying about finding the perfect keywords.
Common Places to Insert Your Keywords
Again, I honestly feel that what you should be really focusing on is your user experience. That said, here are some common places that could use some keywords:
- Post/page title.
- Post URL slug (the post/page URL extension to your universal URL. For example, the URL of this post is https://www.mommiesmakingmoneynow.com/seo-for-beginners, and the last part “seo-for-beginners” is the slug.)
- Meta description.
- Image (if you have any), alt tags and file names.
- Headers/Subheaders (you don’t need to force keywords into every single one of these, use common sense to figure out where some of these could use keywords; keep things conversational, useful, and relevant.)
- At least a few times within the body of your post. Spread them out so that the post doesn’t read all weird. Your keywords should be properly blended in with the rest of the content.
A Summary of SEO for Your Blog
- SEO starts with your website. Pick a great hosting company to host your WordPress blog. Choose a hosting plan that is secure and fast. Make sure you have SSL (https://). (I suggest SiteGround’s GrowBig plan for beginner bloggers.)
- Use a high-quality template for your blog.
- Use proper meta tags on your site’s header file as well as on individual blog posts (the plugin “Yoast SEO” can help).
- Submit your sitemap to Google’s search console.
- Use a performance-enhancing (with caching capabilities) plugin as well as an image optimization plugin. (I suggest WP Rocket and Optimole)
- Devote enough time to craft a great post title, and then format your posts. Use headers and sub-headers to break up your content into manageable, bite-sized sections.
- It’s good practice to have image alt tags that properly describes what the image is about. Having the image file name something relevant helps as well.
- Utilize internal linking to improve user experience.
- Revamp your old posts periodically to add more relevant and up-to-date content.
- Use the skyscraper technique to write better content than your competitors.
- Use ahrefs backlink checker to see who is linking to your competitors, and then reach out to them asking if they’d like to link to your content instead. Do mention why your post is better than your competitor’s.
Well, that’s all folks! I would love to answer any of your questions or host any of your comments regarding SEO topics and your blog.
Take care until next time,
KelliDream BIG... the possibilities are endless!
Welcome. I’m Kelli and I’m really glad to meet you. I’m an adoring wife to my soulmate and mother to four precious kiddos. I’m on a journey teaching others what I’ve learned so far making money blogging and creating and selling digital products. In addition, I love blogging, brownies (the gooey kind :)), the Living Well Planner created by Elite Blog Academy’s Ruth Soukup (just love love love her too!), and oh so many more things and I’ve created this here little blog to share it all with you so grab a cup of whatever it is you’re drinking and sit back and enjoy the ride!
~And let’s make money! I’ll show you how to make extra money online blogging and creating digital media products, and indeed even turn it into a full-time career!